Californian billionaire gave $ 1 million to pro-Trump group “Dark Money”
A little-known Californian billionaire by the name of Donald Friese has donated $ 1 million to a “black money” group supporting Donald Trump. The previously unreported contribution came in January from Friese and his wife Andrea, according to emails from Friese bankers and a representative for the tycoon.
The funds went to a political group called America First Policies, a 501 (c) 4 nonprofit. These organizations can collect unlimited amounts from donors and do not have to disclose their names. They are expected to spend the majority of their money on non-political causes. However, in practice, groups have become a way for donors to inject large sums of money into the political system without revealing their identity.
These types of nonprofits are sometimes linked to super PACs, which may spend all of their money on politics but have to disclose their donors. America First Policies funneled millions of dollars into a super-PAC of the same name, America First Action. Both groups are led by former WWE leader Linda McMahon, who previously served in President Trump’s cabinet. Both groups argued for similar issues. Earlier this year, the two groups ran advertising campaigns supporting the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. America First Policies also said it spent money opposing the impeachment process in Congress and supporting Trump’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
Launched shortly after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, little is known about the money behind the policies of America First, which said it raised $ 69 million between 2017 and 2019, according to documents from the IRS. The names of less than a dozen other donors have appeared in other reports. A spokesperson representing both the super-PAC and America First Policies declined to comment on Friese’s donation.
“The money that we can see is kind of the tip of the iceberg,” says Robert Maguire, research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “A lot of the money that goes to elections goes through many different vehicles that never see the light of day.”
The 80-year-old billionaire and his wife have also donated around $ 300,000 to political campaigns and causes ahead of the 2020 election, according to the latest data tracked by the Federal Election Commission. Friese grew up in poverty in rural Pennsylvania, joined the military after high school, and then moved to California. It ended up in the warehouse of a small glass distributor by the name of CR Laurence. Friese stayed there for decades, eventually climbing the ranks and buying shares in the company. In 2015, he sold the company, pocketing $ 885 million after tax. It distributed $ 85 million to 1,600 long-tenured workers, while maintaining the company’s warehouses and distribution centers. Today, he is worth around $ 1.1 billion and spends time on his family foundation, which he funded with $ 63 million in 2018. The foundation has donated money to groups like the Army du Salut and the United Service Organizations.